Is your team routinely missing their sales targets? Do your managers and executives tolerate underperformers? Perhaps you have noticed that quarterly or annual priorities are being missed?
Persistent, annoying, and unresolved problems are a sign that you may have a problem with accountability within your organisation. When left to fester, a lack of accountability can create a disruptive work environment, stall progress on key projects, and result in a culture of blame which affects productivity and eventually your bottom line. As a business coach for mid-size market companies for many years, I have seen first-hand the detrimental effects that a lack of accountability can have in business.
In this month’s blog, I delve into the role accountability plays in successful businesses based on the teachings in Gravitas Impact’s monograph Creating a culture of Accountability by Mark E Green and Glen Dall. Their book shares the nine accountable behaviours that support or hinder accountability and how best to avoid or mitigate them.
The role of Accountability in Business
Accountability in business is defined as the one person answerable for whether an action happens. They are not responsible for everything that happens; instead, for every process, someone is held accountable for ensuring it happens and is undertaken correctly. Accountability differs from responsibility, and I discuss the difference further here.
Used positively, accountability lessens the probability of something going wrong and gives everyone in the company a sense of ownership and pride in their work. In their monologue, Green and Dall propose nine accountable behaviours that create positive outcomes:
1. Maintaining transparent communication
All employees are encouraged to communicate openly and honestly about the projects/results they are accountable for, regardless of current status. Mistakes are learned from, fostering continuous improvement with a ‘no shame, no blame’ attitude. Positive performance is acknowledged, and company wins are celebrated as a joint effort.
2. Being anticipatory and proactive
Employees are encouraged to think ahead and anticipate the effects of actions before they are undertaken. It is easier and often less costly to plan for any eventuality than to act in retrospect.
3. Remaining results-orientated
It is easier to achieve desired results when there is a clear focus on the outcome rather than activity, e.g. it is not about the number of calls made to make a sale but the number of deals sealed.
4. Staying clarity-driven
Ensure the information received and dispersed is based on fact and nothing has been missed, i.e., even the uncomfortable questions have been asked, and everyone is clear about what they need to know and the direction the company is heading. This creates a universal understanding of the situation.
5. Engaging in disciplined planning
Effective planning saves time and money and significantly lessens the risk of failure and mistakes in the long run. You should invest a signifigant amount of time planning before taking action.
6. Holding yourself and others to high expectations.
When expectations are high, people are more likely to engage and deliver on those expectations (as long as they are realistic), especially when they are clear about their part in achieving the company’s goals and that their contribution is valued.
7. Repeating yourself
When key information is repeated often, it is more likely to be taken notice of and gain importance. For example, prominent display and communication of the company’s values are more likely to be taken seriously and actioned by employees than values rarely spoken of or promoted.
8. Continuing to course correct
Nothing ever goes 100% according to plan. Regular updates from all those involved help keep reaching a goal on track. It is easier to make adjustments throughout the process than to recover from disappointing results at the end of a campaign/product/service launch.
9. Leaning in
All positive accountability behaviours involve a degree of commitment to moving forward and continuous improvement. Goals and objectives are ‘leaned into’ through active participation in accountability. Because everyone is accountable for an action, there is no opportunity ‘to just sit back and let things happen’.
Similarly, Green and Dall argue that there are nine non-accountable behaviours that hinder productivity and need to be discouraged/rectified in employees and company procedures.
Blaming others or a process when it is clear that their actions have led to a mistake or poor performance. This is trying to throw someone under the bus.
2. Withholding Information
When managers hold back from providing their team with all the information on a project, they hinder the employees’ ability to be accountable for their following actions. For example, by saying that the data is “not important right now” or “don’t worry, it will sort itself out”, they deny access to information that may affect the ability of the employee to do their job well.
3. Continuously “letting people off the hook”.
Poor performance is tolerated when there is no accountable reason for it. For example, mistakes or deadlines are missed, and no attempts are made to ensure it does not happen again, or excuses are rectified. It will only cause more issues and excuses down the line.
4. Being activity-driven instead of result-driven.
Contrary to the mainstream thought that you must be doing well if you are busy, the authors maintain that results are the only accurate measurement of success. Your team needs to remain focused on achieving the goal rather than how busy they are at the moment. All that matters is what you have actually accomplished.
5. Putting Actions before Plans
As the saying goes, failure to plan is a plan for failure. Goals must be accompanied by a realistic, accountable, and actionable plan of how your business will achieve them. You must also be clear about the direction in which you are heading.
6. Clear outcomes are not identified and communicated
Without a clear benchmark of what success looks like or what targets need to be met, it isn’t easy to maintain momentum or motivation within a company. Teams/departments are more likely to ‘go off in different directions’, hindering profitability as resources are stretched to achieve multiple goals.
7. Being slow to respond to changes in the market.
Denying or failing to respond to changes in the market can be detrimental to your business. It will cause uncertainty amongst employees if they are aware of the changes but receive no plan or communication from management as to how the company will respond.
8. Infrequent communication
Failure to communicate regularly allows minor issues to become major ones as ‘no one saw that coming’ when mitigation could have been possible if frequent updates had been undertaken. Creating a regular rhythm of information sharing encourages collaboration and accountability as employees feel involved in the process.
9. Tolerating a lack of progress
When projects are left to linger for long periods without follow-up or given clear timelines for completion, it can lead to complacency. If there are no consequences for failing to meet deadlines or complete projects, progress stalls, and the company’s bottom line suffers.
Recognizing and rectifying the symptoms of a lack of accountability in your business is not always easy to do from within. As your business coach, I provide the impartial advice you need to diagnose why your company is not performing as well as it should and work with you to implement changes necessary to achieve positive accountability.
Give me a call today to discuss your business.